If you’re like me then you love watching cool videos of people taking boogie boards and finless soft top surfboards down huge sand dunes. Sandboarding was on my bucket list for quite some time. Early last August I got to check that one off my bucket list, so let me be the first to tell you, it was awesome!
We stopped at the Great Dunes National Park in Southern Colorado – home of the tallest sand dunes in the United States. It was such a beautiful national park and a must-see spot for anyone looking to travel in Colorado. It was home to so much diversity. I definitely intend on camping and hiking at this park sometime in the future.
You would be lucky enough to visit this park and not sandboard, but I strongly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity. Sandboarding is a blast! Definitely give yourself at least one full day of it if you can!
First things first, DON’T BRING A SNOW SLED. Don’t ask me why – I’m not entirely sure about the physics of it – but I watched quite a few sorry folks barely scooting down those huge sand dunes. Don’t let your huge smile of excitement get wiped away when you realize you’re lacking the proper equipment.
Rent either a sandboard or a sled! Go with a board if you can, but if someone in your group is either really young or can be nervous about these things you can decide if renting a sled is the way to go. Keep in mind, however, it is easy to lose speed on the sand and the boards go much faster.
The national park service won’t rent sand boards, but right outside of the park will be 2 stores where you can rent them: Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa 719-589-9759 available year-round for rent or purchase, and the Oasis Store 719-378-2222 available spring through fall for rent. However, both of these stores will not rent boards or sleds when the dunes are completely wet or frozen in order to protect the boards.
The $20 per day charge might seem like a lot if you’re on a bare-bones budget, but it’s worth the experience. Just think about how expensive it is to go snowboarding. It also isn’t very common for them to have all their boards being rented on a given day. Make sure you call those numbers in advance to set up a reservation.
Once you have all of that sandboard/sled stuff figured out it’s time to hit the dunes. This is a national park so be prepared to pay a fee of entry if you do not own a national park pass, have a senior citizen in your car, have someone with a military ID in their car, or have a 4th grader in your car (Thanks for that one Barack Obama).
Getting to the sand dunes themselves you will have to cross a small creek in between the parking lot and the dunes. Be prepared to do so. This gets its water from snowmelt so its conditions vary throughout the year. However, even at the peak, it is nothing powerful. The only real concern is just whether or not you care to have wet shoes or socks.
On an average year, it begins to flow in April, peaks in May, and dries up by June. For more detailed info including current and forecast conditions of the creek and an informational video click here.
Also, be prepared for the heat. Bring a pair of socks you can wear walking through the Sand Dunes. The sand will be painfully hot; if you can avoid that pain you might as well. Keeping in mind the before mentioned creek, do make sure you keep your socks dry too. It’ll just be an all-around better time not walking around in the sand with soaking wet socks.
In addition, bring lots of water. The elevation is 8,170ft at the visitor center, you have to get yourself back up each and every sand dune you decide to bomb, and chances are it will be pretty dang hot. I was absolutely exhausted!
Last word of advice for all you snow boarders: you think it’ll be the same. I thought it would be. It isn’t! You’ll have to get a feel for it. Trying to stop or slow down like a snowboard will likely put you on your butt. Landing on your butt is better than landing on your face though. We can all agree on that.
I’m not the best snowboarder. I like to carve a lot. It feels cool and it keeps me in control of my speed. I carved a lot on some of the bigger dunes. I regretted it big time. It is soooo incredibly easy for you to lose momentum on the sand. I would find myself stuck and trying to scoot myself along in certain parts.
Sandboarding these dunes is an amazing experience. If you have the opportunity, take it, or make your own opportunity if you have to! this place is gorgeous. Get deeper in the sand dunes and you will see beautiful untouched sand. It is like a painting. Then wax up your board and bomb the bowl of your choosing. Look around you and soak in the views of surrounding mountains and the greenery they provide, but don’t forget at the end of it all to let your bare feet just soak in the cold water of the Medano Creek. It’s glorious.
Last but not least:
There is a nice and easy little waterfall hike right outside of the national park that can function as a great end to your day of sandboarding. It’s only around a mile round trip and it’s called Zapata Falls. At a certain point, you go up through the creek that flows out of the waterfall. The water can be pretty cold but it’s nothing crazy strength-wise so it can be great for the whole family.
Click here for more info!